Open Adoption Interview Project

aip-graphicWelcome to my entry in the Open Adoption Interview Project! This year the project is launching in stages; I’m in the middle wave, myself.

Meet Sarah Salmon! Sarah and her husband have two daughters, ages four and five, whom they adopted from Cambodia as babies. They are Australians currently living in Singapore after 12 years in other Asian countries; Sarah tells me that “We are fortunate that we can take our daughters back to Cambodia every year to visit their birth families.”


1. How did you choose adoption over a gestational surrogate or other ART solutions? I see from your blog that you did use some ART, but not how that was resolved.

My husband and I did a couple of rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI). We were told by my gynaecologist that it was a ‘non-invasive’ treatment, but the follicle scans and the painful insemination felt very invasive to me. Anyone who has undergone any form of ART knows how emotionally stressful it is, and I did not want to prolong the stress any longer, so my husband and I decided to forgo the gynaecologist’s recommendation to undergo IVF and adopt a child instead. We had been living in India for a few years at the time, and we had seen the number of orphaned and abandoned children across the country who needed loving families. It felt like a better choice to give a child a loving home, rather than trying month after month to conceive a biological child.

2. What about the Cambodian program appealed to you?

My husband and I tried to adopt from India, as we had been living in Bangalore for a few years, but Australian government policy did not allow us to adopt from India as expats. Therefore, we needed to find a country that would be approved by the Australian government. We had been living in Asia for several years (residing in South Korea before we relocated to India), so Asia felt like a natural fit for us. At the time, Cambodia was a relatively easy country to adopt from.

3. You mention that you make yearly visits to Cambodia: What are those like? How do you think your daughters understand them?

My husband and I take our two adopted daughters back to Cambodia every year to visit their birth families, as we want them to retain a connection to their birth country, culture, and families. The girls are only 4 & 6 years of age, so they do not fully understand what it all means yet (e.g. my youngest daughter got confused between her orphanage and her birth village when we were there last month). But we hope that as the years go on, they are able to identify with Cambodia and their backgrounds so that they can develop a strong sense of identity. My eldest daughter, due to her age, gets more out of the trips to Cambodia than my youngest daughter. She always has questions prepared before we visit her birth family. The visits to my daughter’s birth villages are always very emotional – both happy and sad.

4. Are you done building your family, or do you plan to adopt again, or do you have other plans?

I have no intention to have any more children, adopted or biological. I am extremely content with my current family.

5. Have there been any legal or logistical headaches involved in adopting children without their (or your) residing in your home country? Any tips for other families who might go through that process?

There were plenty of legal and logistical headaches adopting both my daughters. The Australian government did not make it very easy for us to adopt as expats living outside of our home country, and I found the government staff to be unsupportive and unhelpful. We were basically left to fend for ourselves; we had to find a country to adopt from that fitted the Australian government criteria; we had to research the legalities ourselves; and we had to take the risk of adopting a child to whom the Australian government might not grant citizenship to. Of course, we then had to navigate our way through the Cambodian government process, as well as the Indian government regulations for our daughters to return to live in India with us. My husband and I hired a lawyer in Cambodia to ensure our daughters’ backgrounds checked out (unfortunately there is a history of child trafficking in Cambodia). We also conducted full medicals on our daughters to ensure they would pass the Australian government medical examination. The whole process of adoption from beginning to end involved jumping over many hurdles, and if it wasn’t for the advice from an Australian expat I found via an adoption Yahoo group, I would probably still be wading through the murky waters of adoption. So, my tip for those starting the adoption process is to ready yourself with patience, and to reach out to the adoptive community for advice and support.

Many thanks to Sarah for the chance to hear her story—if you’d like to hear more (or read her questions and my answers), check out her blog at

Interview Time! 2012

This is my third year doing the Open Adoption Interview Project. I’ve been paired with adoptive mothers each time: the first year, a woman with whom I have very little in common in terms of philosophy or life experience; last year, someone I am fortunate to call a friend; and this year, a lady who falls somewhere in the middle: Kelly of Making Monkey Soup. Her questions and my answer will appear on her site. To read other interviews, please visit Production Not Reproduction.

Kelly is an adoptive mother through foster care to Mea; she also has a biological college-aged daughter and three adult stepdaughters. While the adoption is not open, Kelly has reached out to Mea’s first family through letters.

1. You’ve written about getting one letter from Mea’s birth family: Have you had any more contact from them?

We have not heard anything at all since that first letter.  I hope that things are going well for them.  None of the letters that I have sent have been returned, so I do have hope that they are receiving them okay.  Things have been a bit crazy at home right now, so it’s been a few weeks since I have written to them as well.  My plan is to keep sending letters and photos every few months.  I have gotten to a point where I hope that I will get a response, but I am not going to count on it.
As of right now, we haven’t discussed the letters with Mea.  I know the level of disappointment that I have felt in not having any response, and I don’t want that to be passed on to my six year old.  I have kept copies of the letters I have written to them to share with her when she is older, so that she can see that what I wrote to them, and that I tried.
Navigating opening a closed adoption is hard.  Due to the circumstances of her placement with us from foster care to foster adoption placement, I don’t think her family thought they would hear from her ever again.  I am hoping that maybe they are just in shock from receiving the letters, and that at some point if I continue they will start writing back to me (us.)

2. What would your dream situation be with regards to a relationship with/contact from Mea’s birth family?

I would want for them to be able to know their daughter, sister, granddaughter, aunt, etc.  To see that she is well taken care of and happy.  To be able to see where her humor, silliness, and personality comes from.  Ideally, I would like for them to be there for her, in whatever way she would need them to be.
I would be open to visits, and continuing the letters.
In trying to establish contact, this has been all about Mea.  If she has questions, if she wants to know them, I want to know that this is possible for her, and safe.  I think that because she is only 6, it is hard to know what her wants and needs will be when it comes to contact when she is older.  Which is why I have been trying to get some communication going, so that the lines of communication can be opened now, instead of trying to open things up when she has more questions later.
Ultimately, I want whatever Mea wants.

3. What’s Mea’s understanding of adoption right now?

Mea knows that she was adopted.  She knows that she has another mother, and that she grew in her tummy.  She knows that she couldn’t take care of her when she was born, so she lived with another Momma, June (foster mom) until she came to live with us.  She knows that she was not with us until just after she turned one years old.  Sometimes that is hard for her to understand.  As she is getting older, she is realizing that most babies are with their mom’s from birth.  Even most adopted babies.  That has been more than a little hard.
In pre-school they did a family tree, and the teacher requested for the kids to bring a baby picture of themselves to class.  She came home very distraught, because she didn’t think we had any “real” baby pictures of her.  I did, as her foster mom June had given us a photo album of her in her first year, but I will never forget how upset she was at the thought that we didn’t have any baby pictures.
I have since have made some copies of these photos, blown them up so that these photos are around our house as well.

4. Last year, you posted about trying to convince your friend to talk her pregnant (and planning to parent) daughter into placing her baby for adoption ( What is your understanding of the birthparent experience of adoption?

I went back and re-read that post.  I don’t think that I wrote it in the way that I intended it to sound.
When we were talking about her daughter’s situation, we were discussing all options that her daughter had available to her at that time.  It was early in the pregnancy, she could have had an abortion, looked at adoption, or her ultimate choice, parenting.
When I offered to talk to her daughter, it was more to talk to her in general, not to talk her into adoption.  I couldn’t make that choice when I was seventeen and pregnant, I certainly wouldn’t ever consider “talking” someone into it, although, I can see how what I wrote could look like that was what I was saying, I wasn’t too clear.  I just think that it is important that young mothers don’t go into parenting alone thinking that it is a cake walk.  It is hard.  Especially, if the baby’s father is not in the picture.
I have many friends who have placed children, most of whom I have met since blogging, but a few real life friends who have as well.  I have seen how devastating it can be to relinquish a child.  I know that it is beyond hard.  When I first discovered I was pregnant with Mackenzie, I thought about adoption for a period of time.  I just knew that I wouldn’t have been able to do it.  I would have been wrecked emotionally.

5. What has been your favorite age to parent with each of your daughters so far?

I love toddlerhood.  It is by far my favorite.  Two to five years old.  They are learning so much, and you can see their little minds working so many things out sometimes.  It is an amazing thing to watch, and they are so funny!  They just say the funniest things.

6. What are your hopes for Mea’s future?

I just want her to be well adjusted, happy and for her to have a life full of wonderful amazing experiences.  I hope that she will be able to have a relationship with all of her family members that she desires, and that these relationships are everything she could ever hope they would be.